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What to look for in a used boat?

So you’re in the market for a used boat, outboard motor or trailer. According to the Cannons Marina team, here’s what we think that you need to do before buying a used boat:

First find local Florida boat dealer or marina that have good reputations for quality boat sales and service. These local Florida boat dealers usually have good used boats in stock that have been inspected, certified and are ready for delivery. By using a local boat dealer or marina, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that if you have a problem your local seller is right down the road. This also acts as a benefit when you do your annual boat and motor maintenance, as the boat dealership will know your boat.

Whether your search for a used boat or motor takes you to a private seller or a boat dealer, use the following checklist. If you’re uncomfortable using the checklist yourself, hire a local boat service center, marina, or boat appraiser to perform these checks. They can save you lots of time and money if problems arise.

Questions I feel that you should ask before buying a used boat:

· What’s the year of the boat and the motor?

· How many hours does the motor have on it?

· When were the boat and motor last serviced? And, by which dealer?

· How long has the seller owned the boat and motor? Are they the first owner?

· Have there been major repairs to the motor or the hull?

· When was the last time the boat was used?

· Are the boat or motor still under factory warranty?

Used Boat, Motor and Trailer Checklists

The Outboard Motor:

· Compression Check. Do this after the motor has warmed up. Check each cylinder. They should all check within 10% +/– difference of each other.

· Check for water in the lower unit after you’ve run the boat on the water. Water would not show up in the lower unit oil if it was just changed but may after it has been run again.

· Clear, gold colored oil should indicate everything is OK

· Water or a coffee/cream color indicates a problem.

· Black oil indicates the motor is in need of service.

· Spin the propeller. Look at the center of the shaft. If it appears to wobble, the propeller shaft could be bent and may need replacing.

· Overall condition. Look at the overall condition of the motor on the outside and inside. Look for painted areas or welds that don’t look normal. How clean is the power head and the motor pan? Check the condition of all battery and control cables.

· Take the used boat and motor for a test ride. Start it up and listen to it. Make sure it starts easily and idles smoothly. Watch how the motor powers up and gets the boat on a plane. How does it run at full RPM’s? Does a horn come on or does it bog down?

Once again, we recommend that you have any outboard motor checked by a local dealer or boat marina. It can save you money in the long run.

The Boat:

Make sure you’re looking at the style of boat that best fits your needs. You don’t want to go through this process again. Sometimes that great deal doesn’t cut it at any price. A good dealer will ask questions about your needs and expectations and will help guide you to the right used boat. Now that you’ve found that boat, here are some things to look for:

· Walk around the outside of the boat. Check for stress cracks along the hull and gunnels. Some of these may be due to bumping a dock and will not be a problem (other than cosmetic), but others could be due to unusual movement in the boat, which is not normal. If you see a lot of cracks, the boat needs to be looked at by a professional. But remember, most used boats will show some signs of use.

· Now, get down under the boat and looks for deep gouges or scraps that go though the gel coat. These need to be filled. Often these are simple repairs. But if you see deep gouges with fiberglass sticking out or what looks to be repairs to the bottom, this should be a red flag to have the boat checked by a professional.

· Check the transom area around the motor and look for cracks or signs of stress. Tilt the motor up and shake the lower unit to check for movement in the transom or in any existing cracks. These could be signs of a bad transom and very expensive repairs.

· Get into the boat and walk around. Feel for soft spots in the deck by bouncing a little. Feeling movement is not a good sign. Move on to the next boat.

· Look in all compartments, especially below deck. Look at the condition of all areas. Are they dirty? Is there water in them or is there a waterline around the vertical walls? If you find water, drain the boat then take it for a ride. Run the bait well pumps and then check the compartments after you pull the boat. If you find more water you may have leak problems that need to be checked out. If you see a waterline around the walls of these areas, it means the boat has had water in it for some time and could have damaged pumps, wiring etc. Again, these need to be checked out.

· Check the electrical system. Make sure all lights, pumps, gauges etc. are in working order.

· Check the steering system for smooth, easy operation.

· Check the condition of the batteries and their age.

· Check the fuel system, condition of the fuel tank, the sending unit and fuel filter. (If the boat does not have a water/fuel separator, have one installed ASAP. It is a very important part and should be on every boat).

The Trailer:

Don’t overlook the trailer. This could be a major area of aggravation and disappointment in your boating experience. Make sure the trailer is ready for the road and that it fits the boat for ease of launching and retrieval.

· Make sure all lights are operational.

· Check the hub temperatures. If the boat was just trailered they should be warm to the touch, but not hot.

· Inspect axles and springs or torsion bars for rust.

· Are there brakes on the trailer and are they functional?

· Make sure the boat and trailer meet you state’s legal requirements. Check state laws on weights, brakes and legal width.

· Check the fender areas and frame for damage.

· Check tire condition and pressure.

· Check the winch operation and strap condition.

· Check the safety chains and tongue latch.

· Lastly, check that you have a strap to tie the boat down to the trailer when traveling.

These are just a few of the things to look for when purchasing a used boat. Remember, using the services of a quality dealer will help make this process go much smoother. Boating should be a great experience and a source of pleasure. Do your homework; go boating and have a great time on the water.

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About the author: I was born a commercial fisherman’s daughter in Cortez, an old fishing village off the west coast of Florida where you can still experience “Old Florida” and get a really good grouper sandwich. I went to school and became an anesthetist, after privileged years of practice, I jumped ship to work in the family business – Cannons Marina. I love my job and the view. I am crazy about my dog Gnarly. Being out on the water is magical. I still get giddy every time I see a dolphin. Often I brag that I had the opportunity to swim alongside a humpback whale – it was freaky and pretty amazing. Fishing for tarpon and marlin make me happy. My life is no doubt boating, but I also love paddle-boarding cooking and travel. Find me at Google+.

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